After a week of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, it's only fitting that senators to the 67th Boys Nation session finish the week with the ultimate once-in-a-lifetime experience: meeting the president of the United States.
The 98 Boys Nation senators joined the 98 senators from Girls Nation on Friday morning at the White House for a special meeting and photo opportunity with the commander-in-chief. For them, the experience of seeing and interacting with President Obama was surreal.
"Not everyone gets to meet the president, the leader of the free world," said Raphael Korosso, a Federalist senator from Michigan. "Just having that experience, having it in the back of your head, it's just awesome."
Senators spent a few hours touring the East Wing of the White House – the portion that is reserved for the First Lady's office, the White House theater and a few staff offices. The East Wing is decorated with portraits and memorabilia that commemorate past presidents, including an oil painting of John F. Kennedy, a molding of Abraham Lincoln's head and a few portraits of past First Ladies.
"The White House was really mind-boggling," said Jared Dumas, a Nationalist senator from Maine. "Seeing that much history in one day was incredible. Seeing all these rooms that you read about, this is where the president hosted a dinner and this is where presidents sat before you, sitting in that chair is really mind-boggling."
For Davis Erker, a Federalist senator from Nebraska, the experience of looking out the White House windows and seeing sightseers looking in was something that he will never forget.
"I was pretty tired, but I think the first half hour that I was in the building, I couldn't stop smiling because it was so awe inspiring," Erker said. "You just can't get over how you are looking at these hundreds of people outside the fence who are admiring this building that I am now inside of and about to meet the resident of."
After touring the White House, the senators lined up according to height for their forthcoming photo opportunity with the president. The anticipation for the moment of seeing and meeting the president was flowing throughout the room.
"Meeting the president of the United States, you get nervous thinking about how much power is in one place," Dumas said. "It's crazy to think that one of us could be that person someday."
After around 20 minutes, Obama arrived to take a photo with Boys Nation and Girls Nation staff and senators. The president thanked both organizations for their support of youth and their eagerness to teach young people about the American political system.
A handful of lucky senators, like Korosso, who chose the right spot in the photo, got the opportunity to shake the president's hand.
"There's no way you could have ever expected you'd get a chance to do this," Erker said.
Ultimately, the opportunity to meet and take a picture with the president was a fitting end to the life-changing experience that was Boys Nation.
"This whole week has definitely matched up to the slogan ‘A week that shapes a lifetime,'" Dumas said. "I could definitely see myself doing more in politics than I would have before Boys Nation. I definitely could see myself working in D.C. I already talked to my Congressman about interning."